As relatively young entities, Qatar-based institutions have shown a hunger for high-profile acquisitions Fuelled by the rapid growth in its oil and gas sectors, Qatar is likely to emerge as the new ?powerhouse? in global real estate capital flows this year, leading real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle has said in a report. ?Qatar is the epitome of energy-rich GCC nations, with a large appetite for real estate investment, fuelled by the rapid growth in oil and gas revenues over recent years,? Jones Lang LaSalle regional director Fadi Mousalli said. ?With a relatively small domestic real estate market, much of this interest is being directed towards real estate markets overseas, making Qatar an increasingly important player in terms of global real estate capital flows,? Mousalli added. After an adjustment period in 2009, Qatar-based institutions are back in the spotlight and the state is projected to rank as the number one global overseas real estate investor in 2010, he said. The return of the Qataris on the global real estate scene has been marked by an ?aggressive and bold? investment strategy. As relatively young entities, Qatar- based institutions have shown a hunger for high-profile acquisitions and an eagerness to leave their footprint on the global map. ?Cash-rich and with a strong appetite for splashy overseas assets, Qatari vehicles have lately outshined their counterparts from the region and are projected to carry on with their rapid expansion across the real estate world,? Mousalli said. In November 2009, the acquisition of the US embassy building in Grosvenor Square, London, revealed the renewed appetite of Qataris for high-profile transactions. This was further demonstrated in May with the purchase of the prestigious Harrods Department Store for a reported ?1.5bn. Qatari players have not restricted their interest to traditional, mature investment destinations and have also been looking to deploy their fire power in various emerging geographies (e.g. Latin America, Eastern Europe, the subcontinent). Qatari Diar has acquired stakes in high-class hotels around the world (such as the Raffles Hotel in Singapore or the MAIA resort in Seychelles) and the First Investor is currently looking for opportunities in Russia and Brazil. Another feature of Qatar?s appetite for real estate is its willingness to consider both direct and indirect investments. In addition to the direct deals discussed above, Qatar has been a major investor in real estate vehicles around the world, Mousalli said. A recent example of this form of investment was the ?350mn investment that Qatar Holding has made to purchase a controlling stake in Songbird, the owner of Canary Wharf in London. Qatar started to invest heavily in its gas infrastructure in the early 1990s, which has resulted in a massive increase in government revenue over the past 10 years. The government has created a number of major investment vehicles (Qatar Investment Authority, Qatar Holding, Barwa, Qatari Diar, etc). These entities have been established with the mission of diversifying the country?s wealth into new asset classes locally and internationally and real estate is seen as a key investment sector for a number of these funds. Backed by gas-generated government money, these vehicles have embarked on large-scale acquisitions of iconic assets and prestigious brands across the globe. The extent of the government backing has mitigated the impact of the global economic downturn on the investment appetite of these vehicles compared to their regional peers. Their ability to compete in this market will be increased by the decline in investment from German open-ended funds, which were among the major global investors in 2009.(Source- GULF TIMES)

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